Choice vs. calculation

9 posts / 0 new
Last post
After watching Extra creditz's video on Choice and conflict I felt that it extended well to D&D.
If you know me on the CharOp board, you know I'm heavy into DPR/KPR calculations.  Us over there, have beaten that horse dead.  For strikers, the reduction of all our choices into calculations has made the role rather bland.  Take the charger kit.  This achieves great DPR and also saying your choice doesn't really matter, just charge.  Strikers often have an easy winner: select max(DPR) from builds;  But Leaders and defenders offer real choice.  Lots of incomperables.Laughing  Warlord's Enable vs. Cleric's heal.  Defender's More AC(last longer in battle) vs. less AC(more attractive target for baddies).

I'd like to find the real choices in the striker role, the leader role, the defender role, and possibly the controller role.  What real choices, real incomperables do you like in D&D?  

Is the choice between better AC and temp HP/resistance more of a calculation or is that incomperable enough to make one defender feel different than another.

Is the choice between higher accuracy(avenger) vs. more damage(barbarian)?  I tend to say no.  The real choice is frontloaded damage vs. sustained damage.  Area vs. single target.  Those are real questions.  Things you can't easily compare.

What choices, when picking a leader, really vex you?  If you were to build a warlord, which choice are you frequently on the fence for?

Which choices do you feel make the most impact on how the class feels? 
DPR King Candidates 3.0
How much damage should I shoot for?
You're fired : 1 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .2 KPR Fair Striker : 2 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .4 KPR Highly Optimized : 3 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .6 KPR Nerfbat please : 4 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .8 KPR It's OVER 9000!!!!!: 5 Kills Per 5 Rounds = 1+ KPR
DPR? KPR? KP4R? Bless you
DPR = Damage Per round ~= Chance to hit * damage on a hit KPR = Kills Per Round. 1 Kill = 8*Level+24 damage = DPR/(8*level+24) KPNR = Kills Per N Rounds. How many standards can you kill in N rounds?
As I am currently writing a remake of 4th edition I find this questionnaire and it's results very interesting, I'll add in my own answers:

Number 1

In 4th edition there is real choice involved in all of the classes and roles already, however often it's not hard coded into the classes themselves, but are more a result of feat/power/backgroundparagonpathepicdestiny choices, I remember in the beginning of 4th edition when we pretty much only had the player's handbook I to work with, there were afew discussions of Pathfinder versus Stormwarden back then (both are ranger paragon paths from PHB I) now the Stormwarden was numerically superior in terms of DPR no doubt about it, however the Pathfinder paragon path gave a ranger alot of much needed survivability which often lead to the conclusion that both paragon paths were equally powerful.

From a purely mechanical standpoint I think that alot of the classes (and especially the strikers) have very little interesting choices when it comes to class A versus class B, when you factor in feats, powers etc. there becomes plenty of choice, but hardcoded into the classes there is very little...

Personally I think that the defenders were, from the get-go of the game atleast, the most interesting and well-built classes (aslong as you assume that the fighter have gotten some kinda a fix so he doesn't do everything the other defenders does better), take a look at the base defender classes (without zounds of splatbooks) the Paladin, Fighter and Swordmage, the first 3 defenders created for the game have meaningful choice hardcoded into their mechanics, this is not the choice between high AC versus temp hit points versus zounds of surges versus more powerful mark enforcement (I think these are merely calculations with situational factors), no these 3 classes are all defenders and are all good for specific things:

 - The Paladin can only really mark one target, however getting away from the mark is practically impossible, the mark punishment isn't as harsh as that of the Swordmage or Fighter, but it's consistent and inavoidable, Paladins should be the go-to defender for a tanky party able to look after themselves.

 - The Fighter is a multi-marker, whenever he expends an encounter, daily or action point he may have several targets marked to him, along with a warlord he will stably have 2 targets marked to him each round, the fighter's mark punishment is harsh, however it is fairly easy to avoid. Where the paladin can consistently and securely keep one target in check the fighter can keep zounds of enemies in check, but not consistently.

 - The Swordmage have 2 very different builds first Assault: The Assault swordmage is more like a striker than a defender really, his mark punishment is the harshest around, so he really wants his enemies not to attack him, the assault swordmage basically uses his defender feature as a way to improve his DPR, just as if he'd had Sneak Attack or Hunter's Quarry. The Shielding swordmage however is a more extreme case of 'single-target defender' than the paladin, he completely locks down one target, but ONLY one, furthermore his mark punishment, unlike the other three is a 'leader secondary' mechanic, not a 'striker secondary' mechanic, this means that while the other three examples either protects their allies or finish fights faster depending on their marked targets' reactions the shielding swordmage always protects his allies, he doesn't have the ability to finish fights faster, however none of the others are as good at protecting their allies as he is.

Now if you compare these to the early samples of strikers, leaders and controllers, it is very different, the Warlord, Bard and Cleric (never really had much interest in artificers so don't remember how they are built) are (if you take away differences in feats and powers) practically identical, same goes for Wizards and Invokers, strikers do have differences, but their cosmetic only, Rogues, Rangers and Warlocks all do the same thing. You can argue that the rogue is different from ranger and warlock in that his sneak attack is more powerful, but situational, but if you've ever played a rogue you know that you can assume CA most of the time, so in fact he does the same as the other two without spending minor actions and using lower damage dices for it.

A few attempts have been made making strikers that are radically different, the avenger is a good example, his stick is more defendery than the rest, he deals high damage when his enemies act according to plan, if they don't it's probably just as bad for them, personally I just feel that the avenger should've been designed more with this in mind, he should've been more swingy DPR-wise than he is, but if all manages to go according to his planning and tactics the enemy should either be in a hopeless positional tangle or he should be able to outdo a ranger in DPR.

Number 2

No, just like the differences between Sneak Attack, Assassin's Shrouds or Warlock's Curse are comparable, different statics that gives you survivability are also comparable, like I said in Number 1 I find that the choice between defenses, resistance, health and temp hit points aren't meaningful choices, they're situational calculations.

Number 3

I'd say no aswell. Frontloaded damage versus sustained damage and area versus single target are incomparable, but rather lacklustre in my opinion, imagine if the warlock's boons were his striker mechanic and he had no warlock's curse, imagine if the avenger's censures were his striker mechanic or the barbarian's rages were his striker mechanic, if these classes had been built like that they would've been radically different from the rest of the strikers. If this was the case then the ranger or rogue would be the go-to guy for sustained damage, whereas the rest of the strikers would be situational and would bring alot more control and variability to the table.

Number 4

Well, I think the leaders lack choices as much as the strikers do (if not more), the bare bones of all leader classes are completely identical, I find it abit frustrating that there has been made no attempts at making them radically different from each other.

Number 5

Powers, definitely, most of the classes in 4th edition at this moment are really just a suite of powers and what makes rangers, rogues and warlocks different from each other is the powers they choose.


I hope you can make use of my random rambling, I'll be sure to follow this thread and see what people think about this
Along the same lines as you wanting to revamp 4e, I hope this list of critical class feature choices apeals to you.  Basically pick a role, pick an option, pick a minor feature.


Striker



  1. When attacking a single target you may take the better of 2 attack rolls

  2. When making a burst attack you may either increase the size 1 step or repeat the attack on another non overlapping area

  3. Twice per battle you may make another attack anytime after your first turn.


Defender



  1. On your turn you may designate any foe in sight as your mark. While so marked if his attack doesn't include you then you appear next to him, take 1/2 of the damage, if any, and get an extra attack on him the following round

  2. All adjacent or attacked foes are marked. If an adjacent foe tries to disengage you may attack him.

  3. you roll twice for defense and take the better, and treat your armor as 1 level better (note in the game I'm wanting to inject these options into has armor superiority result in 1/2 damage: cloth -> chain -> full metal -> full kevlar -> high tech)


Leader



  1. When your turn naturally comes up you may give it up to grant 2 allies an extra attack to take immediatly; they get +2 on these attacks.

  2. Allies starting their turns adjacent to you heal 1 wound.

  3. Whenever you attack, all allies that attack your target that round heal 1 wound.


Controller



  1. When you declare your attack you may freely add on a minor condition, or upgrage an existing one. Alternativly you may make the attack friendly by restricting this choice to one of the following groups: (bla bla bla), (bla bla bla)...

  2. You gain a special attack:all (foes/allies) within a large burst must try to move 1 square (closer/further) from the center.

  3. Once per battle as an attack you may creat a large zone which applies a minor condition(picked at time of attack) to all creatures while within the zone


Minor features



  1. Once per battle at any time you may move

  2. pick attack or defense rolls. Get +3 to one, -1 to the other

  3. pick a condition from the following list to add to a power: bla bla bla

  4. Once per battle you may have your attack mark a foe for the whole battle

  5. the first 3 times you would take a wound in battle you instead get +1 to your next attack

  6. Thoughts???

DPR King Candidates 3.0
How much damage should I shoot for?
You're fired : 1 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .2 KPR Fair Striker : 2 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .4 KPR Highly Optimized : 3 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .6 KPR Nerfbat please : 4 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .8 KPR It's OVER 9000!!!!!: 5 Kills Per 5 Rounds = 1+ KPR
DPR? KPR? KP4R? Bless you
DPR = Damage Per round ~= Chance to hit * damage on a hit KPR = Kills Per Round. 1 Kill = 8*Level+24 damage = DPR/(8*level+24) KPNR = Kills Per N Rounds. How many standards can you kill in N rounds?
I've seen a lot of these 4e fixes that generalize all the classes and class features.  Letting you pick from a list makes it seem like it is much more fluid and then everything is balanced and easy. 

In practice it makes the characters boring.  One of the major things that people forget about broad, yet still restrictive rules, is that the restrictive part has inherent value.  For one it helps replay value.  Someone playing for 4 years might understand the classes they play frequently or play with frequently and then might be told to build something else and be completely clueless.  General lessons will carry over (+hit is good, superior implements/weapons on strikers, improved defenses and Superior Will) but a lot of things have to be learned over.  Their default choices might be linked to something that they can't get anymore so they have to learn the new class.  While even people who enjoy it might sometimes call it annoying, it is part of the depth of the game and much of these types of 4e modification packets ignore or destroy it.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
One of my main goals was to identify the choices that matter in the long run (how the class mechanically feels), and port those choices to minimus. I wanted to preserve the simplicity, thus the need for steamlined choices.  This RPG doesn't have any class system, and the combat system has some holes.  
Currently the game let's you claim a role in the team, but leaves all implications up to skill choice, with no combat implications built in.  In this way, there aren't too many non-fluff choices for the player to make.  Also having a class mechanic provides a scaffolding when carving out one's character at the beginning.  If the first question you ask yourself is "think of 5 events in your character's history" I will run a blank.  
We all know we like to play ourselves, we just can't think of the "me" manefestation in the DM's world given nothing to build on.  
Picking choices I can do, giving a history is much more harder.  I think it would be helpful to players to find a prefered mechanic, then visualize how they would accomplish that mechanic.  Striker.1 can be painted with a quantum attacker, a dual arrow shooter, a 2-weapon weilder...  Then paint up from that scaffolding.
DPR King Candidates 3.0
How much damage should I shoot for?
You're fired : 1 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .2 KPR Fair Striker : 2 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .4 KPR Highly Optimized : 3 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .6 KPR Nerfbat please : 4 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .8 KPR It's OVER 9000!!!!!: 5 Kills Per 5 Rounds = 1+ KPR
DPR? KPR? KP4R? Bless you
DPR = Damage Per round ~= Chance to hit * damage on a hit KPR = Kills Per Round. 1 Kill = 8*Level+24 damage = DPR/(8*level+24) KPNR = Kills Per N Rounds. How many standards can you kill in N rounds?
Basically I've boiled choices down to the following

Striker


  • Pick either single target consistent accuracy/damage, multi-target damage, or frontloaded damage of your choice


Defender


  • Pick either single target lockdown, "everyone! dogpile me!!", or "I'm a tank"



Leader


  • Pick either versatile action enabling/buffing, "follow me into battle", or directing focus fire



Controller


  • Pick either be good at one group of conditions (cold focused, mental focused, movement focused...), or BC through forced movement, or BC through conjurations.



I felt these areas captured well the cornerstones of each role.  

Do you feel there are other cornerstones of the roles?
DPR King Candidates 3.0
How much damage should I shoot for?
You're fired : 1 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .2 KPR Fair Striker : 2 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .4 KPR Highly Optimized : 3 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .6 KPR Nerfbat please : 4 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .8 KPR It's OVER 9000!!!!!: 5 Kills Per 5 Rounds = 1+ KPR
DPR? KPR? KP4R? Bless you
DPR = Damage Per round ~= Chance to hit * damage on a hit KPR = Kills Per Round. 1 Kill = 8*Level+24 damage = DPR/(8*level+24) KPNR = Kills Per N Rounds. How many standards can you kill in N rounds?
Do you feel there are other cornerstones of the roles?



Well that depends whether we talk about the classes as a whole or just the base class features of the classes, also depends whether we talk potential cornerstones that could be used for classes or just the ones that are currently in the game.

For my review I'll take basis of what is currently in the game and the base classes (before feats and powers):

Striker: With the exception of some funky hybrid builds able to create catch-22 strikers, I think the different core flavours of strikers are as follows: Consistent high damage, extreme potential for burst damage and constant movement combined with high damage (which I think the Monk does very well, making him the only striker around to truly stand out from the rest). I can't really think of any strikers that are able to put out loads of multi-target damage though (fire specialised wizards can put out multi-target striker damage, but they're still labeled as controllers).

I feel that there are alot more potential cornerstones that could be created for strikers, most of those we have just seem uninspired (in my opinion most of the strikers in 4e also suffer from plain old bad design).

Defender: I think that there's alot more going for defenders, you have: Defend through controlling enemy movement, defend through marking everything around you, defend through locking down single enemies, defend through mitigating damage done to your team, defend through forcing your enemies to go out of their way to hit you or defend through being so survivable that even if the rest of your team goes down you can still win the fight solo.

As stated before I find the defenders of 4e to be by far the best crafted classes within the system, there are still unexplored themes for defenders, but unlike all the other roles the defenders really feel different and most of them have relevant choices built into their core framework.

Leader: Leaders have (almost) only one cornerstone used in 4e and that is heal allies (again when looking at the core of the classes), the artificer is the only leader to stand out abit, though he isn't THAT different atleast he's the only attempt at something slightly differing from the rest.

On the leaders there are definitely ALOT of unexplored territory, how about leaders that didn't heal at all, but let their allies expend healing surges for extra actions? leaders that could create shields of temporary hit points out of their allies' healing surges, leaders that expended ally healing surges to provide enormous buffs to damage or defenses, leaders that worked by stacking up regeneration on their allies or true AoE healers that were able to heal several allies consistently through a single action?

Controller: The controller role is in the first place wishy-washy, looking at the core of the controllers most of them have no cornerstone AT ALL, they have a suite of powers that may or may not give them a feel of purpose, but controllers are really just a suite of classes whose class features gives the utilarian power, but don't give them any role, in short, controllers is a mishmash of all those classes that didn't fit into the 3 real roles of the game.

Again there have been some half-hearted attempts at making controllers a real role, but looking through them all in the compendium I don't really find anyone that has a true cornerstone, obviously there's also alot of unused potential here.

Thank you for your reply.  I agree with you that 4e delivered Defenders well.  
One thing I'm trying to get at with this thread is to boil the roles down to the core choices you're given.  These choices must be apples and oranges choices.  Single target is non-comparable to multi-target damage.  Your average monk may be great at dealing a sum total damage, but pales in taking down a single target, where a Ranger or a sub-zero Brutal Barrage Battlmind would excel.  

What other "apples and oranges" exist, and should exist, in the roles as you see it?

One critical assumption I just realized is that single target vs. multi target methods are mostly incomparable due to the way D&D handles combat resolution through HP.  Because you are just as effective when at 1 HP vs. full HP, you observe no change in bad guys when you reduce each one to 1/2 HP.  If we were using a wound mechanic(accumulated attack penalties based on remaining HP) then the total threat reduction generated with your multi attack would be much greater than eliminating a single foe from the equation.  

Does anyone have ideas on ways to balance single-target vs. multi-target under a wound system?



DPR King Candidates 3.0
How much damage should I shoot for?
You're fired : 1 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .2 KPR Fair Striker : 2 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .4 KPR Highly Optimized : 3 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .6 KPR Nerfbat please : 4 Kills Per 5 Rounds = .8 KPR It's OVER 9000!!!!!: 5 Kills Per 5 Rounds = 1+ KPR
DPR? KPR? KP4R? Bless you
DPR = Damage Per round ~= Chance to hit * damage on a hit KPR = Kills Per Round. 1 Kill = 8*Level+24 damage = DPR/(8*level+24) KPNR = Kills Per N Rounds. How many standards can you kill in N rounds?
What other "apples and oranges" exist, and should exist, in the roles as you see it?



Like I stated there exists several other cases of apples and oranges in the game already (apples and oranges are actually a bad way to put it, from a gastronomic point of view apples and oranges are actually pretty similar and interchangable in cooking, but nevermind that I know what it means).

Because of the tactical way D&D combat works there are other aspects of any given combat than damage, this is where abilities of mobility and control comes in, you can win a fight decisively by dealing more damage, but you can also win a fight decisively by locking down enemy targets, force enemies into bad positioning, disrupt enemy tactics and so on, classes focusing on these aspects, in my opinion, are also incomparable to straight damage mitigating and damage dealing, the case of the monk from what I've seen is that he is unique compared to the other strikers, the greatest problem in 4e at the moment however is bad calculation, some classes (specifically the ranger, but he's not the only offender) are just straight out imbalanced compared to other strikers because the numbers in these classes are poorly calculated. The monk may be an unique snowflake when it comes to strikers, however because the ranger is just generally overpowered (because of poor math) the monk is still subpar compared to the ranger.

As to what should/could exist I'll give you some examples from my own reiteration of 4th edition:

Strikers: The Rogue is pretty much unchanged, making him the king of stable and reliable high damage output, then there's the Slayer, the slayer is built on chance, his damage output is more unreliable, if he's lucky he deals more damage than the rest, if he's unlucky he deals less (these two guys are pretty similar and not really incomparable though).

The Warlock focuses more on control than damage, he has a greater emphasis of the effects of pact boons than the 4e warlock, while not able to deal as much damage as a rogue or slayer (unless he takes a pact boon focused on damage, if he does so he becomes a Snowball Striker, dealing more and more damage the closer he comes to the end of an encounter) he brings alot more battlefield control than those two, the Assault Swordmage is a pure striker now, specialising in lockdown, his striker feature enables him to lock down troublesome enemy targets and grants him tonnes of additional damage in case they move (so essentially the warlock is a versatile multi-target lockdown striker while the assault swordmage is a focused single-target lockdown striker).

Next up is the Berserker, he's a risk/reward striker, he sacrifices his own health and longevity resources to deal additional damage, if he goes all out he can out-do ANYONE in damage output, however doing so leaves him very vulnerable in future encounters, again I feel that this guy is incomparable to rogue and slayer, even though his stick is also pure damage output, because he needs to turn up and down for his power level depending on the need of any given encounter.

Lastly is the Feral Druid and Primal Druid, feral druids are melee strikers, what makes them different to the other strikers is versatility, the feral druid can switch between different forms depending on the needs of the group/encounter so he sacrifices damage output for versatility in that a feral druid can easily switch around mid-encounter and become the group's secondary leader or defender, the Primal Druid is the go-to guy for constant and reliable multi-target damage.

Defender: Defenders in my revamp haven't changed that much, the Champion (fighter) is still a multi-target defender whose mark is easy to escape, the Shielding Swordmage is still a damage mitigating single-target defender, the Feral Druid (when built as a defender) offers the same kinda versatility as his striker counterpart and sacrifices the focus that other defenders have and the Incanting Runesmith is a single-target inescapable lockdown defender.

Again I find that all these different defender options are incomparable.

Leader: Leaders have changed alot, the Warlord is truly an action enabling leader, his class feature allows allies to reduce the damage of incoming attacks (at the cost of healing surges) and gain enormous buffs to offense or defense from the use of the ability, the Bard is the simple healer, in the vein of 4th edition's cleric, the Inscribing Runesmith uses allied healing surges to create shields of damage absorbtion (temporary hit points) that grants either offensive or defensive bonuses until the shield is chipped down, the Nature Druid stacks up regeneration on his allies meaning that against fast bursts of damage and quickly resolved combats he heals for very little, while in prolonged fights he heals for alot more than the actual surge values used to enable his heals (the Nature Druid also has the option to tap into the versatile nature that all druids share).

Again I feel that the leaders are also incomparable, their strengths and weaknesses are so different that it is a choice whether you run a warlord or a bard, not a calculation.

Controller: I've done away with the controller role, never really found that it fits, because all classes exhibit control to a greater or lesser extent, instead I have the Utilarian role which is only occupied by the Mage, the Mage is by far the most advanced of the classes I have created and his ability to tap into LOADS of different spellschools allows him to specialise in striker, defender or leader stuff or become a mix of all three, the Mage is just like the standard 4e controller a class that is fully and exclusively defined by his choice of powers.

Does anyone have ideas on ways to balance single-target vs. multi-target under a wound system?



4e already have a system for that, the bloodied system already creates a difference between 'wounded' and 'not-wounded', some monsters and characters will gain heavy advantages/disadvantages when bloodied or when fighting bloodied enemies, if you want to make a wound system I suggest you just make the differences between bloodied and unbloodied greater, if the bloodied state grants natural disadvantages you also favour multi-target damage which I think is a good thing for the game's balance as the game already heavily favours single-target damage over multi-target.

Sign In to post comments